10 fun facts you should know about the Dodge Lil Red Express

In the 1960s, the trend for muscle cars was extreme. It didn’t matter how much fuel the vehicle used or how bad the emission levels were. If it had power, it was willed. The 1970s changed that with the oil embargoes that increased the price of gas and the government’s emission regulations. People of the time thought the odds would spell the end of the muscle car, and for the most part they were right. Dodge, the black sheep of the three major Detroit automakers, found a way to make a truck that was a muscle car in disguise. Let’s take a look at 10 things everyone forgot about the Dodge Lil Red Express:


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10/10 The actual name is the little red truck

Front and side view of a 1978 Dodge Lil Red Express

The Dodge muscle truck is designed to give muscle car enthusiasts an option during the era of new emissions policies. The public immediately dubbed the truck the Dodge Lil Red Express because of the decals prominently displayed on each door. The name stuck when it was given, even to this day. The thing is, though, that wasn’t the name Dodge gave him at the time. The muscle truck’s actual name was simply the Dodge Lil Red Truck, something many people don’t even know about.

9/10 360 police motorcycle under the hood

Downward view of a Dodge 360 ​​in the Lil Red Express

One might think that if a true muscle truck were made, it would have the largest engine available. The thought did go through the minds of the engineers, but in the end they went with a modified 360 police motorcycle for the first year. It had engine changes that increased power from 160 horses to 225 horses. In its second year of production, the engine lost some of its upgrades due to emissions regulations, but it still had the police version of the 360 ​​V-8 under the hood.

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8/10 Limited slip axle built for speed

Front and side view of a 1978 Dodge Lil Red Express

Usually the rear axle of a truck is built for pulling and towing. After all, that is one of the main reasons why consumers buy trucks. They are for work and leisure, not necessarily for racing because the axles are not built for it. The Dodge Lil Red Express was different. It was designed and produced with a limited slip axle that would normally never find its way under a truck body. In the decade when muscle cars were the thing, the first swap builders would have been the rear axle and the gears installed in it.

7/10 Faster than the Corvette in 1978!

Side view of a gray 1978 Chevrolet Corvette

You’d never think a truck could outperform a Chevy Corvette, especially when the ‘Vette was considered one of the best American cars to own. In 1978 the Corvette had some excellent track times for the day. It could shoot from 0 to 60 in 7.8 seconds and complete the quarter-mile run in 16.1 seconds. Not bad for 1978. Built for speed and performance, the 1978 Dodge Little Red Express took the place of the muscle cars so many people adore. Given the technology available at the time, this truck had some phenomenal track times. From 0 to 60, the truck could cover the quarter mile in about 15 seconds and reach 60 from a standstill in 6.7 seconds. On a straight track, the Lil Red Express outperformed the Corvette every time.

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6/10 The loophole of the government allowed the production

Side view of a 1979 Dodge Lil Red Express

In 1966, the California government instituted the first round of emissions regulations. From then on, all makes and models coming off the assembly line would have to meet their standards or be banned from being sold in the state. The tailpipe emissions protocols were born, but there was a loophole that not many people noticed until the Dodge Lil Red Express hit the scene. The government had taken into account the extra power needed by trucks capable of carrying more than 6,000 GVW. This meant that no catalytic converters were needed for those trucks, including the Dodge D100, with a GVW of up to 6,100. It only made sense to Dodge’s engineers and designers that the truck could be used as a muscle car option after playing with the engines and powertrains to make it competitive.

5/10 1979 models were on many unsold cars

Side view of a 1979 Dodge Lil Red Express

The excitement of the 1978 Dodge Lil Red Express carried over to the 1979 model year, but the loophole left by emissions regulations was closed for all cars and trucks in the ’79 model year. This meant that the truck could no longer be sold without the catalytic converter that suppressed the power, noise and performance of the Lil Red Express. With that change and the direction the world was taking, the pull of the truck-built muscle car began to wane. There were car parks across the country with a 1979 Dodge Lil Red Express truck parked in the back of the rows. Sales declined and the once king of the hill became a thing of the past that remained unwanted and unsold on the lots.

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4/10 The 1979 model came with catalytic converters

Front and side view of a 1979 Dodge Lil Red Express

The 1978 Lil Red Express was such an exceptional hit because it was built to circumvent emissions regulations so that it could get the maximum power from the engine without any restrictions. Restrictions such as the catalytic converters had to be installed on the 1979 trucks. This is one of the reasons the truck lost all of its demand, along with a few other reasons. But once the truck was modified to stay within government guidelines, the landscape of the muscle car, or muscle truck, in this case, changed forever.

3/10 Better gas mileage than the competition

Side view of a 1979 Dodge Lil Red Express

In the late 1970s, the average fuel economy of a pickup truck was less than 10 miles per gallon. The bigger the engine was, the worse the mileage would get. The police version of the Dodge 360 ​​in the Lil Red Express gave the driver all the power needed in a drag race, but at average speed it could go up to 13 mpg. A vehicle built for speed is a respectable number, especially since it’s a truck.

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2/10 The interior is inspired by muscle car builders

Interior view of a 1979 Dodge Lil Red Express

In the 20th century, it would be difficult to find a truck without a front seat bench. The Dodge Lil Red Express was no exception, unless the buyer chose to create a cockpit like no other. The standard bench seats could be removed and a nice set of bucket seats could be installed. The steering wheel was smaller than the average truck wheel and the gauges were optimized so that the driver could see the cluster with a simple look in the eye. It was an interior meant for muscle car enthusiasts who wanted to feel the embrace of the seats and see the acceleration rates as they screamed down the track.

1/10 A total of 7,306 trucks were made

Oblique side view of a 1979 Dodge Lil Red Express

Today Ram trucks would go out of business if it only made a small number of trucks. In fact, Dodge sees sales reaching the mid 100,000 mark… and that’s quarterly. In 1978 and 1979, Dodge trucks were not in demand for newer models, so sales amounts were much lower. Only 7,306 trucks were built between the two years, of which only 2,188 were produced during the first year of assembly. This means that there are very few ’78s available that had the modified V-8 simply because people didn’t believe in a truck that could beat a Corvette in a straight drag race until it was too late.

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